Cycling in Japan can be an exciting adventure and in March 2021, we set off on our first week-long bike trip through Tottori to Shimane Prefecture. This is the third part of our cycling trip – the journey starts here and continues here.
Day 5: Detective Conan Town & A Dodgy Hotel by the Sea (50 km)
We suddenly found ourselves in a super efficient coin laundry to wash our clothes, conveniently located right next to a 7-11 convenience store AND ramen restaurant with excellent reviews AND a manga museum when it suddenly hit me: this is Japan! Haha! Needless to say, we had ramen for lunch followed by a 7-11 cafe latte and when we came back, our clothes were clean and dry and it was time to visit Detective Conan Town!
I have to admit, I wasn’t much of a Detective Conan fan back in the days, but a few of my friends were really into it and it was one of the most famous anime in the 90s and early 00s in Germany. It was cool to visit the ‘birthplace’ of this manga as we left Lake Togo and set off west to our destination for the day: Daisen town!
When planning our trip to Tottori, we researched lots of different ways to get up to Mount Daisen as it’s meant to be beautiful with peaceful temple stays. But unfortunately it seemed too much of a mission being more than a 1,729m climb, and possibly still snowy on the top. Therefore, we decided to stay along the coast in Daisen-cho, halfway between Lake Togo and Matsue in Shimane, which was our final destination of this cycling trip. It proved to be challenging to find accommodation and we ended up staying in a cheap, renovated (former) love hotel by the sea. Once we arrived there after a good 50km cycle that day, we opened a bottle of local wine on the terrace during sunset, which was kind of necessary to compensate for the “interesting” surroundings.
Day 6: Possibly the best viewpoint in Japan, a salt onsen with sea views and staying on a lake island (53 km)
Who’d have known that day 6 ended up being my favourite day of our biking holiday! It started with a long, flat cycle along immaculate fields all the way along the sea until we arrived in the city of Yonago where we explored the historic city center and parked our bikes to climb up the Yonago castle ruins – for the most scenic views we’ve had in Japan! It’s truly incredible how you can see the lake islands, mountains, the sea, Yonago city, Matsue city and more from so many different angles on the top of the old castle ruins.
After our little hike, we cycled to a famous salt onsen which was on-route and we both enjoyed relaxing in an outdoor onsen with sea views, but it also made us quite sleepy afterwards! Don’t onsen and cycle… From Kaike (salt) onsen, there’s a new bike path all along the seafront which was absolutely stunning and while the sun was slowly setting, we cycled along there towards our beds for the night on a tiny lake island called “Daikonjima” (radish island). Once we were on top of a super steep bridge leading onto the island, we stopped by a sign that officially announced that we had now left Tottori prefecture and had arrived in Shimane prefecture and then cycled through endless fields with sunset views. Wow! And then we arrived at our accommodation – a small apartment on the 2nd floor with lake views from every angle! Probably the most scenic place we’ve stayed in for a while!
Day 7: An incredible flower garden, chatting with islanders and Matsue castle (39 km)
We woke up with lake views and a coffee in hand on the terrace. What a wonderful end to our first cycling trip! We started the day with a trip to the local artisan bakery, which was very high quality. With a little guilt we bought up the final remaining pastries and chatted to the owner who told us he was from Yokohama originally (it is amazing how often this happens in Japan) and had seen us cycling around the island the previous night. Small world, literally, on this island. From there we went to the fabulous Yuushien Garden which surpassed our expectations and is easily one of the most stunning Japanese gardens we have visited.
In the afternoon, we cycled to Matsue, which was a bit of a slog with tired legs along busy main roads, and went to see the castle. The castle was pretty, but we didn’t connect with Matsue in the same way as some of the other places we had visited, perhaps we were just getting tired. That said, a visit to the Lafcadio Hearn museum was fascinating and well worth a visit. We were keen to get back to our lakeside paradise for sunset, and barely made it in time to crack open a beer from the local brewery. We could have easily stayed longer on Daikonjima to recover from our cycle and soak up the magical atmosphere by the inland sea, but instead we had a 15km cycle to Matsue station in heavy rain to plan for the next morning!
Getting back to Yokohama
The morning of our cycle to Matsue station was the first time it had rained on our whole cycling trip, so we had no idea what it would be like cycling in the rain with our bike bags. And so we set off with plastic raincoats on and praying that our bags were actually waterproof. The rain was not light, but also not too heavy and as we cycled the same path on the previous day, we already knew what to expect which helped a lot. Once we were on the train, we realised that cycling in the rain (if not too heavy) isn’t actually too bad as proper cycling clothes dry fast and the bike bags stayed dry. Phew! The JR super express train from Matsue to Okayama is really not ideal for taking a bike, unless you can take both wheels off, as there’s not much storage space. Once we were on the shinkansen though, it was easy and comfortable and we were rewarded with Mt. Fuji views on the final train stretch!
Now you may ask, is bikepacking in Japan worth it? Is it fun and cheaper than other ways of travelling in Japan? What’s next? We’ll do a bikepacking summary article soon!